Are you paying too much for before and after-school care?

Michelle Cooper relies on before-school care for her daughter Macy. Photo: Paul JeffersA major change has quietly unfolded at Victorian schools – and it is costing parents a lot of money.
Nanjing Night Net

Private operators have muscled in on before and after-school care, and now run an estimated 70 per cent of programs in the state.

Two decades ago, these services were all run by schools or local councils, with the profits flowing back into the community.

Victoria’s peak organisation for community-owned education said private operators were slugging parents.

Community Child Care executive directive Leanne Giardina said private providers charged an average of around $27 per after-school care session and $17 for before-school care.

This compared to an average of around $16 and $10 at school-based programs.

She said that unlike New South Wales and Queensland, Victoria had no formal tender processes for these vital services.

This had allowed private operators to flourish, she said.

Ms Giardina said cash-starved principals were tempted to outsource their programs to private operators because they received lucrative rental fees.

But she warned that operators recouped these fees by charging parents more. “We are concerned that it is becoming less and less affordable and parents don’t have a choice,” she said.

Like many working parents, Michelle Cooper relies on before-school care.

Every morning, her 7-year-old daughter Macy attends a service at Ivanhoe East Primary School which is run by one of the largest private operators, OSHClub. She is charged $17 for the morning session. The school-based service at the nearby Ivanhoe Primary School charges $13, according to its website.

Ms Cooper said that after paying astronomical childcare fees, the price seemed reasonable. But she said she was surprised that parents paid less elsewhere. “I’m hoping that the price difference is because of the quality of care,” she said.

The price difference is more pronounced in Preston, where Bell Primary School’s privately-run service charges parents $25.50 per after-school care session compared to $10.50 at the school-based service at Preston West Primary.

Parents can claim back 50 per cent of their costs through the child care rebate.

An OSHClub spokeswoman said schools were outsourcing their programs because before and after-school care had become highly regulated.

“Compliance and the massive new regulations demand many hours of work from the school principal and their team,” she said. She said private operators often charged exactly the same as school based providers.

“Some schools have in the past charged a very low rate, but unfortunately this has been to the detriment of the quality of the program or often the school has to financially support the program.”

Cockatoo Primary School principal Darrelyn Boucher said private providers with “aggressive marketing” techniques constantly contacted her and she had turned away their offers of extra cash.

The school runs its own program which employs locals and charges $15 for an afternoon session.

“We like the continuity between the classroom and the before and after-school care. The children feel secure in their routine,” she said.

An Education Department spokesman said outside school hours care programs were a matter for schools, school councils and parents.

He said they must follow a procurement process, and significant contracts needed multiple written quotes or public tenders.

The programs are often in high demand, with schools regularly setting up waiting lists.

Kay Margetts, an associate professor at the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education, said school-based programs created strong and important links.

She said staff were tuned in to issues that children and their families were dealing with.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.